The big contradiction in Trump’s speech to the UN

Trump's first U.N. speech was internally incoherent and ramped up tensions.

CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci
CREDIT: AP Photo/Evan Vucci

In the opening minutes of his first speech before the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, President Trump claimed that the Trump administration’s goal is a world of “strong, sovereign nations.”

“In America, we do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather, to let it shine as an example for everyone to watch,” Trump said.

But the rest of Trump’s speech belied that sentiment.

With regard to North Korea, Trump made no distinction between ruling regime and the people who live there. Referring derisively to Kim Jong-un as “rocket man” for the second time in recent days, Trump threatened to “totally destroy” the country if it doesn’t give up its nuclear weapons program.

“Rocket man is on a suicide mission,” Trump said.

After threatening to destroy North Korea, Trump offered similarly overheated rhetoric about Iran.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly ruled that Iran is in compliance with the 2015 nuclear agreement, which imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief. Last week, the Trump administration agreed to extend sanction waivers, but Trump continues to threaten to pull out of the agreement anyway.

In his speech to the UNGA, Trump called the agreement “an embarrassment to the United States.” He ignored that the nuclear agreement wasn’t just signed by the United States, but includes five other countries (the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France, and Germany) and took over two years of negotiations to conclude. He also blasted the Iranian government as “murderous,” called Iran a “rogue nation,” and said, “It is time for the entire world to join us in demanding that Iran’s government end its pursuit of death and destruction.”

Trump then capped his speech off by threatening regime change in Venezuela.

“We are prepared to take further action if the government of Venezuela persists in its path to impose authoritarian rule on the Venezuelan people,” Trump said.

And by taking an awkward pot shot at socialism as a socioeconomic system.

Nowhere in the speech did Trump appear to see the irony in threatening other countries at an institution meant to uphold peacekeeping.

Nor did Trump explain why other countries would want to negotiate with an administration that’s so eager to undermine America’s international agreements, such as the Iran nuclear deal.